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Why is the Negro 
Lynched ? 



Reprinted by permission from "The A.M.E. Church 

Review" for Memorial Distribution, by a few 

of his English friends. 

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We have felt that the most fitting tribute that 
we, of the Anti-Caste movement, can pay to the 
memory of this noble and faithful life is to issue 
broadcast -as far as the means entrusted to 7is ivill 
allow — his last great appeal for Justice (uttered 
through the pages of '■'The A.M.E. Church Review'' 
only a few months before his death). A slanderous 
charge against Negro morality has gone forth 
throughout the world and has been widely credited. 
The white American has had his say both North 
and South. On behalf of the accused., Frederick 
Douglass claims, in the name of justice, to be 

Copies can be obtained free from the Editor of "Anti-Caste," 
Street, Somerset, England. 

Why is the Negro Lynched? 

("The Lesson of the Hour.") 


Reprinted by permissto7i from the ''A.M.E. Church Reznczv.' 


I PROPOSE to give you a coloured man's view of the 
so-called " Negro Problem." We have had the 
Southern white man's view of this subject at large in 
the press, in the pulpit and on the platform. He has 
spoken in the pride of his power and to willing ears. 
Coloured by his peculiar environments, his version has 
been presented with abundant repetition, with startling 
emphasis, and with every advantage to his side of the 
question. We have also had the Northern white man's 
view of the subject, tempered by his distance from the 
scene and by his different, if not his higher, civilization. 

This quality and quantity of evidence, may be con- 
sidered by some men as all sufficient upon which to found 
an intelligent judgment of the whole matter in con- 
troversy, and, therefore, it may be thought my testimony 
is not needed. But experience has taught us that it is 
sometimes wise and necessary to have more than two 
witnesses to bring out the whole truth. Especially is this 
the case where one of such witnesses has a powerful 
motive for suppressing or distorting the facts, as in this 
case. I therefore insist upon my right to take the witness 
stand and give my version of this Southern question, and 
though it shall widely differ from that of both the 

* The headings and divisions are not in the original copy. 

North and South, 1 shall submit the same to the candid 
iudg-ment of all who hear me in full confidence that it will 
be received as true, by honest men and women of both 
sections of this Republic. 

There is one thing, however, in which I think we must 
all agree at the start. It is that this so-called but mis- 
called Negro problem is one of the most im.portant and 
uro-ent subjects that can now engage public attention. Its 
sofution is, and ought to be, the serious business of the 
best American wisdom and statesmanship. For it 
involves the honour or dishonour, the glory or shame, the 
happiness or misery, of the whole American people. It 
not only touches the good name and fame of the Republic, 
but its highest moral welfare and its permanent safety. 
The evil with which it confronts us is coupled with a peril 
at once great and increasing, and one which should be 
removed,lf it can be, without delay. 


The presence of eight millions of people in any section 
of this country, constituting an aggrieved class, smarting 
under terrible wrongs, denied the exercise of the 
commonest rights of humanity, and regarded by the ruling 
class of that section as outside of the government, outside 
of the law, outside of society, having nothing in common 
with the people with whom they live, the sport of mob 
violence and murder, is not only a disgrace and a scandal 
to that particular section, but a menace to the peace and 
security of the whole country. There is, as we all know, 
a perfect epidemic of mob law and persecution now pre- 
vailing at the South, and the indications of a speedy end 
are not hopeful. Great and terrible as have been its 
ravages in the past, it now seems to be increasing, not 
only in the number of its victims, but in its frantic rage 
and savage extravagance. Lawless vengeance is begin- 
ninrr to be visited upon white men as well as black. Our 
newspapers are daily disfigured by its ghastly horrors. It 
is no longer local but national ; no longer confined to the 
South but has invaded the North. The contagion is 
spreading, extending and overleaping geographical lines 
and state boundaries, and if permitted to go on, threatens 
to destroy all respect for law and order, not only in the 
South but in all parts of our common country, North as 
well as South. For certain it is, that crime allowed to go 
unpunished, unresisted and unarrested, will breed crime. 


When the poison of anarchy is once in the air, like the 
pestilence that walketh in darkness, the winds of heaven 
will take it up and favour its diffusion. Though it may- 
strike down the weak to-day, it will strike down the 
strong to-morrow. 

Not a breeze comes to us from the late rebellious states 
that is not tainted and freighted with Negro blood. In its 
thirst for blood and its rage for vengeance, the moblias 
blindly, boldly an^ defiantly supplanted sheriffs, con- 
stables and police. Vlt has assumed all the functions of 
civil authority.' It laughs at legal processes, courts and 
juries, and its red-handed murderers range abroad 
unchecked and unchallenged by law or by public opinion. 
If the mob is in pursuit of Negroes who happen to be 
accused of crime, innocent or guilty, prison walls and iron 
bars afford no protection. Jail doors are battered down 
in the presence of unresisting jailors, and the accused, 
awaiting trial in the courts of law, are dragged out and 
hanged, shot, stabbed or burned to death, as the blind and 
irresponsible mob may elect. 

We claim to be a highly-civilized and Christian 
country. I will not stop to deny this claim, 3'-et I fear- 
lessly affirm that there is nothing in the history of 
savages to surpass the blood-chilling horrors and fiendish 
excesses perpetrated against the coloured people of this 
country, by the so-called enlightened and Christian 
people of the South. It is commonly thought that only 
the lowest and most disgusting birds and beasts, such as 
buzzards, vultures and hyenas, will gloat over and prey 
upon dead bodies ; but the Southern mob, in its rage, 
feeds its vengeance by shooting, stabbing and burning 
their victims, when they are dead. 

Now, what is the special charge by which this ferocity 
is justified, and by which mob law is excused and defended 
even by good men North and South r It is a charge of 
recent origin ; a charge never brought before ; a charge 
never heard of in the time of slavery or in any other time 
in our history. It is a charge of assaults by Negroes 
upon white women. This new charge, once fairly started 
on the wings of rumour, no matter by whom or in what 
manner originated, whether well or ill-founded, whether 
true or false, is certain to raise a mob and to subject the 
accused to immediate torture and death. It is nothing 
that there may be a mistake in his case as to identity. 

It is nothing that the victim pleads " not guilty." It is 
nothing that the accused is of fair reputation and his 
accuser is of an abandoned character. It is nothing that 
the majesty of the law is defied and insulted ; no time is 
allowed for defence or explanation ; he is bound with 
cords, hurried off amid the frantic yells and curses of the 
mob to the scaffold, and there, under its ghastly shadow, 
he is tortured, till by pain or promises, he is made to 
think that he can possibly gain time or save his life by 
confession— confesses — and then, whether guilty or innocent, 
he is shot, hanged, stabbed or burned to death amid the 
wild shouts of the mob. When the will of the mob is 
accomplished, when its thirst for blood has been 
quenched, when its victim is speechless, silent and dead, 
his mobocratic accusers and murderers of course have the 
ear of the world all to themselves, and the world, hearing 
only the testimony of the mob, generally approves its 

Such, then, is the state of Southern law and civilization 
at this moment, in relation to the coloured citizens of that 
section of our country. Though the picture is dark and 
terrible, I venture to affirm that no man, North or South, 
can successfully deny its essential truth. 


Now the question arises, and it is important to know, 
how this state of affairs is viewed by the better classes of 
the Southern States. I will tell you, and I venture to say 
in advance, if our hearts were not already hardened by 
familiarity with crimes against the Negro, we should be 
shocked and astonished, not only by these mobocratic 
crimes, but by the attitude of the better classes of the 
Southern people and ./their law-makers, towards the 
perpetrators of them. With a few noble exceptions, just 
enough to prove the rule, the upper classes of the South 
seem to be in full sympathy with the mob and its deeds. 
There are but few earnest words ever uttered against 
either. Press, platform and pulpit are generally either 
silent or they openly apologise for the mob and its deeds. 
The mobocratic murderers are not only permitted to go 
free, untried and unpunished, but are lauded and 
applauded as honourable men and good citizens, the 
hi'^h-miiided guardians of Southern virtue. If lynch law 
is in any case condemned by them, it is only condemned 
[ in one breath and excused in another. 

The great trouble with the Negro in the South is that 
all presumptions are against him. A white man has but 
to blacken his face and commit a crime to have some 
Negro lynched in his stead. An abandoned woman has 
only to start a cry, true or false, that she has been 
insulted by a black man, to have him arrested and 
summarily murdered by the mob. Frightened and 
tortured by his captors, confused, he may be, into telling 
crooked stories about his whereabouts at the time when 
the crime is alleged to have been committed, and the 
death penalty is at once inflicted, though his story may 
be but the incoherency of ignorance or the distraction 
caused by terror. 

In confirmation of what I have said, I have before me 
the utterances of some of the best people of the South, 
and also the testimony of one from the North, a lady of 
high character, from whom, considering her antecedents, 
we should have expected a more considerate, just and 
humane utterance. 

In a late number of the Forum, Bishop Haygood, 
author of the " Brother in Black," says that " The most 
alarming fact is that execution by lynching has ceased to 
surprise us. The burning of a human being for any 
crime, it is thought, is a horror that does not occur outside 
of the Southern states of the American Union, yet unless 
assaults by Negroes come to an end, there will most 
probably be still further display of vengeance that will 
shock the world, and men who are just will consider the 

In an open letter addressed to me by ex-Governor 
Chamberlain, of South Carolina, published in the 
Charleston News and Courier, in reply to an article of 
mine on the subject of lynching, published in the North 
American Review, the ex-Governor says: "Your 
denunciation of the South on this point is directed 
exclusively, or nearly so, against the application of lynch 
law for the punishment of one crime ; the existence, I 
suppose I might say the prevalence, of this crime at the 
South is undeniable. But I read your article in vain for 
any special denunciation of the crime itself As you say, 
your people are lynched, tortured and burned, for assault 
on white women. As you value your own good fame and 
safety as a race, stamp out the infamous crime." 

And now comes the sweet voice of a Northern woman, 

Miss Frances Willard, of the W. C. T. U., distinguished. 
among her sisters for benevolence and Christian charity. 
She speaks in the same bitter tone and hurls against us 
the same blasting accusation. She says in a letter now 
before me, " I pity the Southerners. The problem in 
their hands is immeasurable. The coloured race 
multiplies like the locusts of Egypt. The safety of 
women, of childhood, of the home, is menaced in a 
thousand localities at this moment, so that men dare 
not go beyond the sight of their own roof tree." Such, 
then, is the crushing indictment drawn up against the 
Southern Negroes, drawn up, too, by persons who are 
perhaps the fairest and most humane of the Negro's 
accusers. Yet even they paint him as a moral monster, 
ferociously invading the sacred rights of woman and 
endangering the homes of the whites. 


Now, I hold, no less than his' accusers, that the crime 
alleged against the Negro is the most revolting which 
men can commit. It is a crime that awakens the 
intensest abhorrence and tempts mankind to kill the 
criminal on first sight. 

But this charge thus brought against the Negro and as 
constantly reiterated by his enemies, is plainly enough 
not merely a charge against the individual culprit, as 
would be the case with an individual of any other race, 
but it is in large measure a charge constructively 
against the coloured people as such. It throws over every 
man of colour a mantle of odium, and sets upon him a 
mark of popular hate, more distressing than the mark set 
upon the first murderer. It points the Negro out as an 
object of suspiciion, avoidance and hate. 

It is in this form of the charge that you and I and all of 
us are required to meet it and refute it, if that can be 
done. In the opinion of some of us it were well to say 
nothing about it, that the least said about it the better. 
They would have us suffer quietly under the odium in 
silence. In this I do not concur. Taking this charge in 
its broad and comprehensive sense, the sense in which it 
is presented and. as now stated, it strikes at the whole 
coloured race, and, therefore, as a coloured man, I am 
bound to meet it. I am grateful for the opportunity now 
afforded me to meet it. For I believe it can be met and 

met successfully. I hold that a people too spiritless to 
defend themselves against unjust imputations, are not 
worth defending, and are not worthy to defend anything 



Without boasting in advance, but relying upon the 
goodness of my cause, I will say here I am ready to 
confront Ex-Governor Chamberlain, Bishop Fitzgerald, 
Bishop Haygood and good Miss Frances Willard and all 
others, singly or altogether, who bring this charge 
against the coloured people as a class. 

But I want however, to be clearly understood at the outset. 
I do not pretend that Negroes are saints and angels. I do 
not deny that they are capable of committing the crime 
imputed to them, but utterly deny that they are any more 
addicted to the commission of that crime than is true of 
any other variety of the human family. In entering upon 
my argument, I may be allowed to say again what should 
be taken for granted at the start, that I am not a defender 
of any man guilty of this atrocious crime, but a defender 
of the coloured people as a class. 

In answer, then, to the terrible indictment thus read, 
and speaking for the coloured people as a class, I venture 
in their name and in their stead, here and now, to plead 
" not guilty," and shall submit my case with confidence of 
acquittal by good men and women. North and South, 
before whom we are, as a class, now being tried. In daring 
to do this I know that the moral atmosphere about me is not 
favourable to my cause. The sentiment left by slavery is 
still with us, and the moral vision of the American people 
is still darkened by its presence. 

It is the misfortune of the coloured people of this 
country that the sins of the few are visited more or less 
upon the many. In respect to the offenders, I am 
with General Grant and every other honest man. My 
motto is, " Let no guilty man escape." But while I say 
this, and mean to say it strongly, I am also here to say, let 
no guilty man be condemned and killed by the mob, or 
crushed under the weight of a charge of which he is not 

I need not be told that the cause I have undertaken to 


support is not to be maintained by any mere confident 
assertions or general denials, however strongly worded. 
If I had no better ground to stand upon than this, I 
would at once leave the field of controversy and give up 
the coloured man's cause to his accusers. I am also 
aware that I am here to do in some measure what the 
masters of logic say is impossible to be done. I know that I 
cannot prove a negative ; there is one thing that I can 
and will do. I will call in question the affirmative. I 
can and will show that there are sound reasons for 
doubting and denying this horrible charge of rape as the 
special and peculiar crime of the coloured people of the 
South. I doubt it, and deny it with all my soul. My 
doubt and denial are based upon three fundamental 

The first ground is, the well-established and well- 
tested character of the Negro on the very point upon 
which he is now so violently and persistently accused. I 
contend that his whole history in bondage and out of 
bondage contradicts and gives the lie to the allegation. 
My second ground for doubt and denial is based upon 
what I know of the character and antecedents of the men 
and women who bring this charge against him. My third 
ground is the palpable unfitness of the mob to testify and 
which is the main witness in the case. 

I therefore affirm that a fierce and frenzied mob is not 
and ought not to be deemed a competent witness against 
any man accused of any crime whatever, and especially 
the crime now in question. The ease with which a mob 
can be collected, the slight causes by which it can be set 
in motion, and the element of which it is composed, 
deprives its testimony of the qualities necessary to sound 
judgment and that which should inspire confidence and 
command belief. Blinded by its own fury, it is moved 
by impulses utterly unfavourable to a clear perception of 
facts and the ability to make an impartial statement of the 
simple truth. At the outset, I challenge the credibility of 
the mob, and as the mob is the main witness in the case 
against the Negro I appeal from the judgment of the mob 
to the judgment of law-abiding men, in support of my 
challenge. I lay special emphasis on the fact that it is 
the mob and the mob only that the country has 
recognised and accepted as its accredited witness against 
the Negro. The mob is its law, its judge, jury and 

executioner. I need not argue this point further. Its 
truth is borne upon its face. 

But I go further. I dare not only to impeach the mob, 
I impeach and discredit the veracity of men generally, 
whether mobocrats or otherwise who sympathise with 
lynch law, whenever or wherever the acts of coloured 
men are in question. It seems impossible for such men to 
judge a coloured man fairly. I hold that men who openly 
and deliberately nullify the laws and violate the provisions 
of the Constitution of their country, which they have 
solemnly sworn to support and execute, are not entitled to 
unqualified belief in any case, and certainly not in the 
case of the Negro. I apply to them the legal maxim, 
"False in one, false in all." Especially do I apply this 
ma5,iiTi when the conduct of the Negro is in question. 
VAgain I question the Negro's accusers on another 
important ground ; I have no confidence in the veracity 
of men who publicly justify themselves in cheatino- the 
Negro out of his constitutional right to vote. The men 
who do this, either by false returns, or by taking 
advantage of the Negro's illiteracy, or by surrounding the 
ballot box with obstacles and sinuosiries intended to 
bewilder him and defeat his rightful exercise of the 
elective franchise, are men who should not be believed on 
oath. That this is done and approved in Southern States 
is notorious. It has been openly defended by so-called 
honest men inside and outside of Congress. 

I met this shameless defence of crime face to face at 
the late Chicago Auxiliary Congress, during the World's 
Columbian Exposition, in a solemn paper by Prof. Weeks, 
of North Carolina, who boldly advocated this kind of 
fraud as necessary and justifiable in order to secure 
Anglo-Saxon supremacy, and in doing so, as I believe, 
he voiced the moral sentiment of Southern men 

Now, men who openly defraud the Negro of his vote by 
all manner of artifice, who justify it and boast of it in the 
face of the world's civilization, as was done by Prof. 
Weeks at Chicago, I hardly need say that such men are 
not to be depended upon for truth in any case where the 
rights of the Negro are involved. Their testimony in the 
case of any other people than the Negro would be 
instantly and utterly discredited, and why not the same in 
this case .? Every honest man will see that this point is 


well taken. It has for its support common sense, 
common honesty, and the best sentiment of mankind. On 
the other hand, it has nothing to oppose it but a vulgar, 
popular prejudice against the coloured people of our 
country, a prejudice which we all know strikes men with 
moral blindness and renders them incapable of seeing 
any distinction between right and wrong where coloured 
people are concerned. 

But I come to a stronger position. I rest my denial 
not merely upon general principles but upon well-known 
facts. I reject the charge brought against the Negro as a 
class, because all through the late war, while the slave- 
masters of the South were absent from their homes, in 
the field of rebellion, with bullets in their pockets, 
treason in their hearts, broad blades in their bloody 
hands, seeking the life of the nation, with the vile purpose 
of perpetuating the enslavement of the Negro, their 
wives, their daughters, their sisters and their mothers 
were 'left in the absolute custody of these same Negroes, 
and during all those long four years of terrible conflict, 
when the Negro had every opportunity to commit the 
abominable crime now alleged against him, there was 
never a single instance of such crime reported or charged 
against him. He was never accused of assault, insult, or 
an attempt to commit an assault upon any white woman 
in the whole South. A fact like this, though negative, 
speaks volumes, and ought to have some weight with 
the American people on the present question. 

Then, again, on general principles, I do not believe the 
charge, because it implies an improbable change, if not 
an impossible change in the mental and moral character 
and composition of the Negro. It implies a radical 
change wholly inconsistent with the well-known facts of 
human nature. It is a contradiction to human experience. 
History does not present an example of a transformation 
in the character of any class of men so extreme, so 
unnatural and so complete as is implied in this charge. 
The change is too great and the period for it too brief. 
Instances may be cited where men fall like stars from 
heaven, but such is not the usual experience with the 
masses. Decline in the moral character of such is not 
sudden, but gradual. The downward steps are marked at 


first by slow degrees and by increasing momentum, 
going from bad to worse as they proceed. Time is an 
element in such changes, and I contend that the Negroes 
of the South have not had time to experience this great 
change and reach this lower depth of infamy. On the 
contrary, in point of fact, they have been, and still are, 
improving and ascending to higher and still higher levels 
of moral and social worth. 



Again I utterly deny the charge on the fundamental 
ground that those who bring the charge do not and dare 
not give the Negro a chance to be heard in his own 
defence. He is not allowed to show the deceptive 
conditions out of which the charge has originated. He is 
not allowed to vindicate his own character from blame, or 
to criminate the character and motives of his accusers. 
Even the mobocrats themselves admit that it would ba 
fatal to their purpose to have the character of the Negro's 
accusers brought into court. They pretend to a delicate 
regard for the feelings of the parties alleged to have been 
assaulted. They are too modest to have them brought 
into court. They are, therefore, for lynching and against 
giving a fair trial to the accused. This excuse, it is 
needless to say, is contemptible and hypocritical. It is 
not only mock modesty, but mob modesty. Men who can 
collect hundreds and thousands of their kind, if we 
believe them, thirsting for vengeance, and can spread 
before them in the tempest and whirlwind of vulgar 
passion, the most disgusting details of crime, connecting 
the names of women with the same, should not be allowed 
to shelter themselves under any pretence of modesty. 
Such a pretence is absurd and shameless upon the face of 
it. Who does not know that the modesty of womanhood 
is always and in every such case an object for special 
protection in a court of law ? On the other hand, who 
does not know that a lawless mob, composed in part of 
the basest men, can have no such respect for the modesty 
of women, as has a court of law. No woman need be 
ashamed to confront one who has insulted or assaulted 
her in any court of law. Besides, innocence does not 
hesitate to come to the rescue of justice, and need not 
even in this 


Again, I do not believe it, and deny it because if the 
evidence were deemed sufficient to bring the accused to 
the scaffold by a verdict of an impartial jury, there could 
be and would be no objection to having the alleged 
offender tried in conformity to due process of law. 

The only excuse for lynch law, which has a shadow of 
support in it is, that the criminal would probably 
otherwise be allowed to escape the punishment due to his 
crime. But this excuse is not employed by the lynchers, 
though it is sometimes so employed by those who 
apologise for the lynchers. But for it there is no 
foundation whatever, in a country like the South, where 
public opinion, the laws, the courts, the juries, the 
advocates, are all against the Negro, especially one 
alleged to be guilty of the crime now charged. That 
such an one would be permitted to escape condign 
punishment, is not only untenable but an insult to 
common sense. The chances are that not even an 
innocent Negro so charged would be allowed to escape. 



But I come to another fact, and an all important fact, 
bearing upon this case. You will remember that during 
all the first years of reconstruction, and long after the 
war, Negroes were slain b}^ scores. The world was 
shocked by these murders, so that the Southern press and 
people found it necessary to invent, adopt and propagate 
almost every species of falsehood to create sympathy for 
themselves, and to formulate excuses for thus gratifying 
their brutal instincts against the Negro ; there was never 
at that time a charge made against any Negro involving 
an assault upon any white woman or upon little white 
children in all the South. During all this time the white 
women and children were absolutely safe. During all 
this time there was no call for Miss Willard's pity, or for 
Bishop Haygood's defence of burning Negroes to death, 
but killing Negroes went on all the same. 

You will remember also that during this time the 
justification for the murder of Negroes was said to be 
Negro conspiracies, Negro insurrections, Negro schemes 
to murder all the white people, Negro plots to burn the 
town and to commit violence generally. These were the 


excuses then depended upon, but never a word was then 
said or whispered about Negro outrages upon white 
women and children. So far as the history of that time 
is concerned, white women and children were absolutely- 
safe, and husbands and fathers could leave their homes 
without the slightest anxiety for the safety of their 
families. But now mark the change and the reasons for 
the change. When events proved that no such 
conspiracies, no such insurrections as were then pretended 
to exist, and which were then paraded before the world in 
glaring headlines in the columns of nearly all our 
newspapers, had ever existed or were even meditated — 
when these excuses had run their course and had served 
their wicked purpose, when the huts of the Negroes had 
been searched, and searched in vain for guns and 
ammunition to prove these charges against the Negro, 
and no such proof was found, when there was no way open 
thereafter to prove these charges against the Negro, and 
no way to make the North believe in them, they did not 
even then bring forward the present allegation, but went 
on harassing and killing Negroes just the same. But 
this time they based their right to kill on the ground that 
it was necessary to check the domination and supremacy 
of the Negro and to secure the absolute rule of the 
Anglo-Saxon race. 

It is important to notice and emphasize here the 
significant fact that there has been three distinct periods 
of persecutions of the Negroes in the South, and three 
distinct sets of excuses for this persecution. They have 
come along precisely in the order they were most needed. 
Each was made to fit its special place. First, you 
remember, as I have said, it was insurrection. When 
that wore out, Negro supremacy became the excuse. 
When that was worn out, then came the charge of assault 
upon defenceless women. I undertake to say that this 
orderly arrangement and periodicity of excuses are 
significant. They mean something, and should not be 
overlooked. They show design, plan, purpose and 
invention. And now that Negro insurrection and Negro 
domination are no longer defensible as an excuse for 
Negro persecution, there has come in due course another 
suited to the occasion, and that is the heart-rending cry 
of the white women and little white children. 

Now, my friends, I ask what is the manifest meaning of 


this charge at this time r What is the meaning of the 
singular omission of this charge during the two periods 
preceding the present r Why was not this charge made 
at that time as now r The Negro was the same man then 
as to-day. Why, I ask again, was not this dreadful 
charge brought forward against the Negro in war times 
and in reconstruction times r Had it existed either in 
war times or during reconstruction, does any man doubt 
that it would have been added to the other charges and 
proclaimed upon the house-tops and at the street corners, 
as this charge is at present r 

I will answer the question : or you yourselves have 
already given the true answer. For the plain and only 
rational explanation is that there was at the times 
specified no foundation for such a charge, or that the 
charge itself was either not thought of, or if thought of 
it was not deemed necessary to excuse the lawless 
violence with which the Negro was then pursued and 
killed. The old charges already enumerated were 
deemed all sufficient. 

Things have changed since then, and the old excuses 
are not now available. The times have changed, and the 
Negro's accusers have found it necessary to change with 
them. They have been compelled to invent a new charge 
to suit the times. The old charges are no longer valid. 
Upon them the good opinion of the North and of 
mankind cannot be secured. Honest men no longer 
believe that there is any ground to apprehend Negro 
supremacy. Times and events have swept away these old 
refuges of lies. They were once powerful. They did 
their work in their day and did it with terrible energy and 
effect, but they are now cast aside as useless. The lie 
has lost its ability to deceive. The altered times and 
circumstances have made necessary a sterner, stronger 
and more effective justification of Southern barbarism, 
and hence we have, according to my theory, to look into 
the face of a more shocking and blasting charge than 
either Negro supremacy or Negro insurrection. 

I insist upon it that this new charge has come at the 
call of new conditions, and that nothing could have been 
hit upon better calculated to accomplish its brutal 
purpose. It clouds the character of the Negro with a 
crime the most shocking that men can commit, and is 
fitted to drive from the criminal all pity and all fair play 


and all mercy. It is a crime that places him outside of 
the pale of the law, and settles upon his shoulders a 
mantle of wrath and fire, that blisters and burns into his 
very soul. 

It is for this purpose, it seems to me, that this new 
charge, unthought of and unknown in the times to which 
I have referred, has been largely invented and thundered 
against us. It is for this purpose that it has been 
constantly reiterated and adopted. It was intended to 
blast and ruin the Negro's character as a man and a 
citizen. I need not tell you how thoroughly it has 
already done its work. The Negro may and does feel its 
malign influence in the very air he breathes. He may 
read it in the faces of men among whom he moves. It 
has cooled his friends ; it has heated his enemies and 
arrested at home and abroad, in some measure, the generous 
efforts that good men were wont to make for his improve- 
ment and elevation. It has deceived his friends at the 
North and many good friends at the South, for nearly all 
of them, in some measure, have accepted this charge 
against the Negro as true. Its perpetual reiteration in 
our newspapers and magazines has led men and women 
to regard him with averted eyes, dark suspicion and 
increasing hate. 

Some of the Southern papers have denounced me for 
my unbelief in this charge and in this new crusade 
against the Negro, but I repeat I do not believe it, and 
firmly deny the grounds upon which it is based. I reject 
it because I see in it evidence of an invention called into 
being by a well-defined motive, a motive sufficient to 
stamp it as a gross expedient to justify murderous assault 
upon a long enslaved and hence a hated people. — 

I not only reject it because it bears upon its face the 
marks of being a fraud, a make-shift for a malignant 
purpose, but because it has sprung upon the country 
simultaneously, and in manifest co-operation with a 
declared purpose and a well-known effort, and I may say 
a fixed determination to degrade the Negro by judicial 
decisions, by legislative enactments, by repealing all laws 
for the protection of the ballot, by drawing the colour 
line in all railroad cars and stations and in all other public 
places in the South, thus to pave the way to a final 
consummation which is nothing less than the Negro's 
entire disenfranchisement as an American citizen. It is 


to this great end that all the charges and complaints 
against the Negro are directed and are made to converge. 
This is and has been from first to last the grand and all- 
commanding object in view. It is a part of a well- 
devised reactionary movement against the Negro as a 
citizen. The old master class are wise in their day and 
generation. They know if they can once divest the 
Negro of the elective franchise and nullify his citizenship, 
the partition wall between him and slavery will no longer 
exist, and no man can tell where the reaction will stop. 


Again, I do not believe it, and deny it, because the 
charge is not so much against the crime itself, as against 
the colour of the people alleged to be guilty of it. 
Slavery itself, you will remember, was a system of 
unmitigated, legalised outrage upon black women of the 
South, and no white man was ever shot, burned or hanged 
for availing himself of all the power that slavery gave 
him at this point. 

To sum up my arg'ument on this lynching business, it 
remains to be said that I have shown that the Negro's 
accusers in this case have violated their oaths, and have 
cheated the Negro out of his vote ; that they have robbed 
and defrauded the Negro systematically and persistently, 
and have boasted of it. I have shown that when the 
Negro had every opportunity to commit the crime now 
charged against him, he was never accused of it by his 
bitterest enemies. I have shown that during all the years 
of reconstruction, when he was being murdered at 
Hamburg, Yazoo, New Orleans, Copiah and elsewhere, 
he was never accused at that time of the crime now 
charged against him. 1 have shown that in the nature of 
things no such change in the character and composition 
of a whole people, as this implies, could have taken place 
within the limited period allowed for it. I have shown 
that those who accuse him dare not confront him in a court 
of law and have their witnesses subjected to proper legal 
inquiry. I have shown from the very constitution of a 
mob, the slight causes by which it may be created, and the 
sentiment by which it is impelled, it cannot be depended 
upon for either truth or justice. I have shown that its 
sole aim is to execute, not to find a true verdict. And 
showing all this and more, I have shown that they who 


charge the Negro with this foul crime, in such 
circumstances, may be justly doubted and deemed 
unworthy of belief. 



But I now come to a grave objection to my theory of 
this violent persecution. I shall be told by many of my 
Northern friends that my argument, though plausible, is 
not conclusive. It will be said that the charges against 
the Negro are specific and positive, and that there must 
be some foundation for them, because, as they allege, men 
in their normal condition do not shoot, hang and burn 
their fellow men who are guiltless of crime. Well ! This 
assumption is very just and very charitable. I only wish 
that something like the same justice and the same charity 
shall be shown to the Negro. All credit is due and is 
accorded to our Northern friends for their humane 
judgment of the South. Humane themselves, they are 
slow to believe that the mobocrats are less humane 
than themselves. Their hearts are right but their heads are 
wrong. They apply a genera.1 rule to a special case. 
They forget that neither the mob nor its victims are in a 
normal condition. Both are exceptions to the general 
rule. The force of the argument against my version of 
the case is the assumption that the lynchers are like 
other men and that the Negro has the same hold on the 
protection of society that other men have. Neither 
assumption is true. The lynchers and mobocrats are not 
like other men, nor is the Negro hedged about by the 
same protection accorded other members of society. 

The point I make, then, is this. That I -am not, in this 
case, dealing v\/ith men in their natural condition. I am 
dealing with men brought up in the exercise of 
irresponsible power. I am dealing with men whose ideas, 
habits and customs are entirely different from those of 
ordinary men. It is, therefore, quite gratuitous to assume 
that the principles that apply to other men, apply to the 
lynchers and murderers of the Negro. The rules resting 
upon the justice and benevolence of human nature do not 
apply to the mobocrats, or to those who were educated in 
the habits and customs of a slave-holding community. 
What these habits are I have a right to know, both in 


theory and practice. Whoever has read the laws of the 
late slave states relating to the Negroes, will see what I 

I repeat, the mistake made by those who, on this 
ground, object to my theory of the charge against the 
Negro, is that they overlook the natural influence of the 
life, education and habits of the lynchers. We must 
remember that these people have not now and have never 
had any such respect for human life as is common to other 
men. They have had among them for centuries a peculiar 
institution, and that peculiar institution has stamped them 
as a peculiar people. They were not before the war, they 
were not during the war, and have not been since the war, 
in their spirit or in their civilization, a people in common 
with the people of the North, or the civilized world. I 
will not here harrow up your feelings by detailing their 
treatment of Northern prisoners during the war. Their 
institutions have taught them no respect for human life, 
and especially the life of the Negro. It has, in fact, 
taught them absolute contempt for his life. The 
sacredness of life which ordinary men feel does not touch 
them anywhere. A dead Negro is with them now, as 
before, a common jest. 

They care no more for the Negro's rights to live than 
they care for his rights to liberty, or his right to the ballot 
or any other right. Chief Justice Taney told the exact 
truth about these people when he said: "They did not 
consider that the black man had any rights which white 
men were bound to respect." No man of the South ever 
called in question that statement, and no man ever will. 
They could always shoot, stab, hang and burn the Negro, 
without any such remorse or shame as other men would 
feel after committing such a crimiC. Any Southern man, 
who is honest and is frank enough to talk on the subject, 
will tell you that he has no such idea as we have of the 
sacredness of human rights, and especially, as I have 
said, of the life of the Negro. Hence it is absurd to meet 
my arguments with the facts predicated of our common 
human nature. 

I know that I shall be charged with apologising for 
criminals. Ex-Governor Chamberlain has already 
virtually done as much. But there is no foundation for 
such charge. I affirm that neither I nor any other 
coloured man of like standing with myself has ever 


raised a linger or uttered a word in defence of any man, 
black or white, known to be guilty of the dreadful crime 
now in question. 

But what I contend for, and what every honest man, 
black or white, has a right to contend for, is that when 
any man is accused of this or any other crime, of whatever 
name, nature, degree or extent, he shall have the benefit 
of a legal investigation ; that he shall be confronted by 
his accusers ; and that he shall, through proper counsel, 
be allowed to question his accusers in open court and in 
open daylight, so that his guilt or his innocence may be 
duly proved and established. 

If this is to make me liable to the charge of apologising 
for crime, I am not ashamed to be so charged. I dare to 
contend for the coloured people of the United States that 
they are a law-abiding people, and J dare to insist 
upon it that they or any other people, black or white, 
accused of crime, shall have a fair trial before they are 


Again, I cannot dwell too much upon the fact that 
coloured people are much damaged by this charge. As 
an injured class we have a right to appeal from the 
judgment of the mob, to the judgment of the law and to 
the justice of the American people. 

Full well our enemies have known where to strike and 
how to stab us most fatally. Owing to popular prejudice, 
it has become the misfortune of the coloured people of the 
South and of the North as well, to have, as I have said, the 
sins of the few visited upon the many. 

When a white man steals, robs or murders, his crime is 
visited upon his own head alone. But not so with the 
black man. When he commits a crime, the whole race is 
made responsible. The case before us is an example. 
This unfairness confronts us not only here but it confronts 
us everywhere else. 

Even when American art undertakes to picture the types 
of the two races, it invariably places in comparison, not the 
best of both races as common fairness would dictate, but 
it puts side by side and in glaring contrast, the lowest type 
of the Negro with the highest type of the white man and 
then calls upon the world to " look upon this picture, then 
upon that." 


When a black man's language is quoted, in order to be- 
little and degrade him, his ideas are often put in the most 
grotesque and unreadable English, while the utterances of 
Negro scholars and authors are ignored. To-day, So- 
journer Truth is more readily quoted than Alexander 
Cromwell or Dr. James McCune Smith. A hundred white 
men will attend a concert of counterfeit Negro minstrels, 
with faces blackened with burnt cork, to one who will 
attend a lecture by an intelligent Negro. 

Even the late World's Columbian Exposition was guilty 
of this unfairness. While I join with all other men in pro- 
nouncing the Exposition itself one of the grandest demon- 
strations of civilization that the world has ever seen, yet 
great and glorious as it was, it was made to show just this 
kind of injustice and discrimination against the Negro. 

As nowhere in the world, it was hoped that here the idea 
of human brotherhood would have been grandly recognized 
and most gloriously illustrated. It should have been thus 
and would have been thus, had it been what it professed to 
be, a World's Exposition. It was not such, however, in its 
spirit at this point ; it was only an American Exposition. 
The spirit of American caste against the educated Negro 
was conspicuously seen from start to finish, and to this 
extent the Exposition was made simply an American 
Exposition instead of a World's Exposition. 

Since the day of Pentecost there was never assembled 
in anyone place or on any one occasion a larger variety of 
peoples of all forms, features and colors and all degrees of 
civilization, than was assembled at this World's Exposition. 
It was a grand ethnological object lesson, a fine chance to 
study all likenesses and all differences of mankind. Here 
were Japanese, Soudanese, Chinese, Singalese, Syrians 
Persians, Tunisians, Algerians, Egyptians, East Indians, 
Laplanders, Esquimaux, and, as if to shame the educated 
Negro of America, the Dahomeyans were there to exhibit 
their barbarism and increase American contempt for the 
Negro intellect. All classes and conditions were there 
save the educated American Negro. He ought to have 
been there, if only to show what American slavery and 
American freedom have done for him. The fact that all 
other nations were there at their best, made the Negro's 
exclusion the more pronounced and the more significant. 
People from abroad noticed the fact thtit while we have 
eight millions of colored people in the United States, 


many of them gentlemen and scholars, not one ot them 
was deemed worthy to be appointed a Commissioner, or a 
member of an important committee, or a guide or a guard 
on the Exposition grounds, and this was evidently an in- 
tentional slight to the race. What a commentary is this 
upon the liberality of our boasted American liberty and 
American equality ! It is a silent example, to be sure, but 
it is one that speaks louder than words. It says to the 
world that the colored people of America are not deemed 
by Americans as within the compass of American law, 
progress and civilization. It says to the lynchers and 
mobocrats of the South, go on in your hellish work of 
Negro persecution. You kill their bodies, we kill their souls. 




But now a word on the question of Negro suffrage. It 
has come to be fashionable of late to ascribe much of the 
trouble at the South to ignorant Negro suffrage. That 
great measure recommended by General Grant and 
adopted by the loyal nation, is now denounced as a blunder 
and a failure. The proposition now is, therefore, to find 
some way to abridge and limit this right by imposing 
upon it an educational or some other qualification. 
Among those who take this view of the question are Mr. 
John J. Ingalls and Mr. John M. Langston, one white and 
the other colored. They are both distinguished leaders ; 
the one is the leader of the whites and the other is the 
leader of the blacks. They are both eloquent, both able, 
and both wrong. Though they are both Johns, neither of 
them is to my mind a "St. John," and not even a "John 
the Baptist." They have taken up an idea which they 
seem to think quite new, but which in reality is as old 
as despotism, and about as narrow and selfish as 
despotism. It has been heard and answered a thousand 
times over. It is the argument of the crowned heads and 
privileged classes of the world. It is as good against our 
Republican form of government as it is against the Negro. 
The wonder is that its votaries do not see its consequences. 
It does away with that noble and just idea of Abraham 
Lincoln that our government should be a government of 
the people, by the people and for the people and for all the 


These gentlemen are very learned, very eloquent and 
very able, but I cannot follow them in this effort to restrict 
voting to the educated classes. Much learning has made 
them mad. Education is great but manhood is greater. 
The one is the principle, the other the accident. Man was 
not made as an attribute to education, but education as an 
attribute to man. I say to these gentlemen, first protect 
the man and you will thereby protect education. Do not 
make illiteracy a bar to the ballot, but make the ballot a 
bar to illiteracy. Take the ballot from the Negro and you 
take from him the means and motives that make for educa- 
tion. Those who are already educated and are vested with 
political power have thereby an advantage which they are 
not likely to divide with the Negro, especially when they 
have a fixed purpose to make this entirely a white man's 
government. I cannot, therefore, follow these gentlemen 
in a path so dangerous to the Negro. I would not make 
suffrage more exclusive but more inclusive. I would not 
have it embrace only the 61ite, but I would have it include 
the lowly. I would not only include the men, but would 
gladly include the women, and make our government in 
reality, as in name, a government by the people, of the 
people, and for the whole people. 

But, manifestly, it is all nonsense to make suffrage to 
the coloured people, the cause of the failure of good 
government in the Southern states. On the contrary it is 
the lawless limitation of suffrage that makes the trouble. 

Much thoughtless speech is heard about the ignorance 
of the Negro in the South. But plainly enough, it is not 
the ignorance of the Negro but the malevolence of his 
accusers, which is the real cause of Southern disorder. It 
is easy to show that the illiteracy of the Negro has no part 
or lot in the disturbances there. They who contend for 
disfranchisement on this ground, know, and know very 
well, that there is no truth whatever in their contention. 
To make out their case, they must show that some oppres- 
sive and hurtful measure has been imposed upon the 
country by Negro voters. But they cannot show any such 
thing and they know it. 

The Negro has never set up a separate party, never 
adopted a Negro platform, never proclaimed or adopted a 
separate policy for himself or for the country. His 
assailants know this and know that he has never acted 
apart from the whole American people. They know that 


he has never sought to lead, but has always been content 
to follow. They know that he has not made his ignorance 
the rule of his political conduct, but he has been guided by 
the rule of white men. They know that he simply kept 
pace wath the average intelligence of his age and country. 
They know that he has gone steadily along in the line of 
his politics with the most enlightened citizens of the 
country and that he has never gone faster or farther. They 
know that he has always voted with one or the other of 
the two great political parties. They know that if the 
votes of these parties have been guided by intelligence 
and patriotism, the same must be said of the vote of the 
Negro. Knowing all this, they ought to know also, that it 
is a shame and an outrage upon common sense and fair 
dealing to hold him or his suffrage responsible for any 
disorder that may reign in the Southern States. Yet 
while any lie may be safely told against the Negro and 
will be credited by popular prejudice, this lie will find 
eloquent tongues, bold and shameless enough to tell it. 

It is true that the Negro once voted solidly for the can- 
didates of the republican party ; but what if he did r He 
then only voted with John ]\Iercer Langston, John J. 
Ingalls, John Sherman, General Harrison, Senator Hoar, 
Henry Cabot Todge and Governor McKinley and many of 
the most intelligent statesmen and noblest patriots of 
whom this country can boast. The charge against him at 
this time is, therefore, utterly groundless and is used for 
fraud, violence and persecution. 

The proposition to disfranchise the coloured voter of the 
South in order to solve the race problem, I therefore 
denounce as a false and cowardly proposition, utterl}^ 
unworthy of an honest and grateful nation. It is a propo- 
sition to sacrifice friends in order to conciliate enemies ; to 
surrender the constitution for the lack of moral courage to 
execute its provisions. It is a proclamation of the help- 
lessness of the Nation to protect its own citizens. It says 
to the coloured citizen, " We cannot protect you, we there- 
fore propose to join your oppressors. Your suffrage has 
been rendered a failure by violence, and we now propose 
to make it a failure by law." 

Than this, there was never a surrender more dishonor- 
able, more ungrateful, or more cowardly. Any statesman, 
black or white, who dares to support such a scheme by any 
concession, deserves no worse punishment than to be 


allowed to stay at home, deprived of all legislative trusts 
until he repents. Even then he should only be received 
on probation. 


Do not ask me what will be the final result of the so- 
called Negro problem. I cannot tell you. I have some- 
times thought that the American people are too great to 
be small, too just and magnanimous to oppress the weak, 
too brave to yield up the right to the strong, and too 
grateful for public services ever to forget them or to reward 
them. I have fondly hoped that this estimate of American 
character would soon cease to be contradicted or put in 
doubt. But events have made me doubtful. The favour 
with which this proposition of disfranchisement has been 
received by public men, white and black, by republicans 
as well as democrats, has shaken my faith in the nobility 
of the nation. I hope and trust all will come out right in 
the end, but the immediate future looks dark and troubled. 
I cannot shut my eyes to the ugly facts before me. 

Strange things have happened of late and are still 
happening. Some of these tend to dim the lustre of the 
American name, and chill the hopes once entertained for 
the cause of American liberty. He is a wiser man than I 
am who can tell how low the moral sentiment of the 
Republic may yet fall. When the moral sense of a nation 
begins to decline, and the wheels of progress to roll 
backward, there is no telling how low the one will fall or 
where the other will stop. The downward tendency, 
already manifest, has swept away some of the most 
important safeguards of justice and liberty. The Supreme 
Court, has, in a measure, surrendered. State sovereignty 
is essentially restored. The Civil Rights Bill is impaired. 
The Republican party is converted into a party of money, 
rather than a party of humanity and justice. We may 
well ask, what next r 

The pit of hell is said to be bottomless. Principles 
which we all thought to have been firmly and permanently 
settled by the late war have been boldly assaulted and 
overthrown by the defeated party. Rebel rule is now 
nearly complete in many states, and it is gradually 
capturing the nation's Congress. The cause lost in the 
war is the cause regained in peace, and the cause gained 
in war is the cause lost in peace. 


There was a threat made long ago by an American 
statesman that the whole body of legislation enacted for 
the protection of American liberty and to secure the 
results of the war for the Union, should be blotted from 
the national statute bock. That threat is now being 
sternly pursued and may 57et be fully realised. The 
repeal of the laws intended to protect the elective 
franchise has heightened the suspicion that Southern rule 
may yet become complete, though, I trust, not permanent. 
There is no denying that the trend is in the wrong 
direction at present. The late election, however, gives 
us hope that the loyal Republican party may yet return 
to its first love. 



But I now come to another proposition, held up as a 
solution of the race problem, and this I consider equally 
unworthy with the one just disposed of. The two belong 
to the same low-bred family of ideas. 

It is the proposition to colonize the coloured people of 
America in Africa, or somewhere else. Happily this 
scheme will be defeated, both by its impolicy and its 
impracticability. It is all nonsense to talk about the 
removal of eight millions of the American people from 
their liomes in America to Africa. The expense and 
hardships, to say nothing of the cruelty attending such a 
measure, would make success impossible. The American 
people are wicked, but they are not fools ; they will 
hardly be disposed to incur the expense, to say nothing of 
the injustice which this measure demands. Nevertheless, 
this colonizing scheme, unworthy as it is of American 
statesmanship, and American honour, and though full of 
mischief to the coloured people, seems to have a strong 
hold on the public mind, and at times has shown much 
life and vigor. 

The bad thing about it is, that it has, of late, owing to 
persecution, begun to be advocated by coloured men of 
acknowledged ability and learning, and every little while 
some white statesman becomes its advocate. Those 
gentlemen will doubtless have their opinion of me ; I 
certainly have mine of them. My opinion is, that if they 
are sensible, they are insincere ; and if they are sincere, 
they are not sensible. They know, or they ought to 


know that it would take more money than the cost of the 
late war, to transport even one half of the coloured people 
of the United States to Africa. Whether intentionally or 
not, they are, as I think, simply trifling with an afflicted 
people. They urge them to look for relief where they ought 
to know that relief is impossible. The only excuse they 
can make for the measure is that there is no hope for the 
Negro here, and that the coloured people in America owe 
something to Africa. 

This last sentimental idea makes colonization very 
fascinating to the dreamers of both colours. But there is 
really no foundation for it. 

They tell us that we owe something to our native land. 
This sounds well. But when the fact is brought to view, 
which should never be forgotten, that a man can only have 
one native land and that is the land in which he is born, 
the bottom falls entirely out of this sentimental argument. 

Africa, according to her colonization advocates, is by 
no means modest in her demands upon us. She calls 
upon us to send her only our best men. She does not 
want our riff-raff, but our best men. But these are just 
the men who are valuable and who are wanted at home. 
It is true that we have a few preachers and laymen with a 
missionary turn of mind whom we might easily spare. 
Some who would possibly do as much good by going there 
as by staying here. By this is not the colonization idea. 
Its advocates want not only the best, but millions of the 
best. Better still, they want the United States Govern- 
ment to vote the money to send them there. They do not 
seem to see that if the Government votes money to send 
the Negro to Africa, that the Government may employ 
means to complete the arrangement and compel us to go. 

Now I hold that the American Negro owes no more to 
the Negroes in Africa than he owes to the Negroes in 
America. There are millions of needy people over there, 
but there are also millions of needy people over here as 
well, and the millions in America need intelligent men of 
their number to help them, as much as intelligent men are 
needed in Africa to help her people. Besides, we have a 
fight on our hands right here, a fight for the redemption 
of the whole race, and a blow struck successfully for the 
Negro in America, is a blow struck for the Negro in Africa. 
For, until the Negro is respected in America, he need not 
expect consideration elsewhere. All this native land talk. 


however, is nonsense. The native land of the American 
Negro is America. His bones, his muscles, his sinews, 
are all American. His ancestors for two hundred and 
seventy years have lived and laboured and died, on 
American soil, and millions of his posterity have inherited 
Caucasian blood. 

It is pertinent, therefore, to ask, in view of this 
admixture, as well as in view of other facts, where the 
people of this mixed race are to go, for their ancestors 
are white and black, and it will be difficult to find their 
native land anywhere outside of the United States. 

But the worst thing, perhaps, about this colonization 
nonsense is, that it tends to throw over the Negro a 
mantle of despair. It leads him to doubt the possibility 
of his progess as an American citizen. It also encourages 
popular prejudice with the hope that by persecution or by 
persuasion, the Negro can finally be dislodged and driven 
from his natural home, while in the nature of the case he 
must stay here and will stay here, if for no other reason 
than because he cannot well get away. 

I object to the colonization scheme, because it tends to 
weaken the Negro's hold on one country, while it can give 
him no rational hope of another. Its tendency is to make 
him despondent and doubtful, where he should feel assured 
and confident. It forces upon him the idea that he is for 
ever doomed to be a stranger and a sojourner in the land of 
his birth, and that he has no permanent abiding place here. 

All this is hurtful ; with such ideas constantly flaunted 
before him, he cannot easily set himself to work to better 
his condition in such ways as are open to him here. It 
sets him to groping everlastingly after the impossible. 

Every man who thinks at all, must know that home is 
the fountain head, the inspiration, the foundation and main 
support, not only of all social virtue but of all motives to 
human progress, and that no people can prosper, or amount 
to much, unless they have a home, or the hope of a home. 
A man who has not such an object, either in possession or 
in prospect, is a nobody and will never be anything else. 
To have a home, the Negro must have a country, and he is 
an enemy to the moral progress of the Negro, whether he 
knows it or not, who calls upon him to break up his home 
in this country, for an uncertain home in Africa. 

But the agitation on this subject has a darker side still. 
It has already been given out that if we do not go of our 


own accord, we may be forced to go, at the point of the 
bayonet. I cannot say that we shall not have to face this 
hardship, but badly as I think of the tendency of our times, 
I do not think that American sentiment will ever reach a 
condition which will make the expulsion of the Negro from 
the United States by any such means, possible. 

Yet, the way to make it possible is to predict it. There 
are people in the world who know how to bring their 
own prophecies to pass. The best way to get up a mob, 
is to say there will be one, and this is what is being done. 
Colonization is no solution, but an evasion. It is not 
repentance but putting the wronged ones out of our 
presence. It is not atonement, but banishment. It is not 
love, but hate. Its reiteration and agitation only serves to 
fan the flame of popular prejudice and to add insult to 
to injury. 

The righteous judgment of mankind will say if the 
American people could endure the Negro's presence while 
a slave, they certainly can and ought to endure his 
presence as a free man. 

If they could tolerate him when he was a heathen, they 
might bear with him now that he is a Christian. If they 
could bear with him when ignorant and degraded, they 
should bear with him now that he is a gentleman and a 

But even the Southern whites have an interest in this 
question. Woe to the South when it no longer has the 
strong arm of the Negro to till its soil, " and woe to the 
nation when it shall employ the sword to drive the Negro 
from his native land." 

Such a crime against justice, such a crime against 
gratitude, should it ever be attempted, would certainly 
bring a national punishment which would cause the earth to 
shudder. It would bring a stain upon the nation's honour, 
like the blood on Lady Macbeth's hand. The waters 
of all the oceans would not suffice to wash out the infamy. 
But the nation will commit no such crime. But in 
regard to this point of our future, my mind is easy. We 
are here and are here to stay. It is well for us and well 
for the American people to rest up on this as final. 

\/emancipation crippled, landlord and tenant. 

Another mode of impeaching the wisdom of emancipa- 
pation, and the one which seems to give special pleasure to 


our enemies, is, as they say, that the condition of the 
coloured people of the South has been made worse by 

The champions of this idea are the only men who glory 
in the good old times when the slaves were under the lash 
and were bought and sold in the market with horses, sheep, 
and swine. It is another way of saying that slavery is 
better than freedom ; that darkness is better than light, 
and that wrong is better than right ; that hell is better 
than heaven ! It is the American method of reasoning in 
all matters concerning the Negro. It inverts everything ; 
turns truth upside down, and puts the case of the unfortu- 
nate Negro inside out and wrong end foremost every time. 
There is, however, nearly always some truth on their side 
of error, and it is so in this case. 

When these false reasoners assert that the condition of 
the emancipated slave is wretched and deplorable, they 
partly tell the truth, and I agree with them. I even 
concur with them in the statement that the Negro is 
physically, in certain localities, in a worse condition to-day 
than in the time of slavery, but I part with these g'entle- 
men when they ascribe this condition to emancipation. 

To my mind the blame does not rest upon emancipation, 
but the defeat of emancipation. It is not the work of the 
spirit of liberty, but the work of the spirit of bondage. It 
comes of the determination of slavery to perpetuate itself, 
if not under one form, then under another. It is due to 
the folly of endeavouring to put the new wine of liberty in 
the old bottles of slavery. I concede the evil, but deny 
the alleged cause. 

The landowners of the South want the labour of the 
Negro on the hardest terms possible. They once had it 
for nothing. Ihey now want it for next to nothing. To 
accomplish this, they have contrived three ways. The first 
is, to rent their land to the Negro at an exorbitant price 
per annum and compel him to mortgage his crop in 
advance to pay this rent. The laws under which this is 
done are entirely in the interest of the landlord. He has 
a first claim upon everything produced on the land. The 
Negro can have nothing, can keep nothing, can sell 
nothing, without the consent of the landlord. As 
the Negro is at the start poor and empty-handed, 
he has had to draw on the landlord for meat and 
bread to feed himself and family while his crop 


is growing. The landlord keeps books ; the Negro does 
not ; hence, no matter how hard he may work or how hard 
saving he may be, he is, in most cases, brought in debt 
at the end of the year, and once in debt he is fastened to 
the land as by hooks of steel. If he attempts to leave he 
may be arrested under the order of the law. 

Another way, which is still more effective, is the practice 
of paying the labourer with orders on the store instead of 
lawful money. By this means money is kept out of the 
hands of the Negro, and the Negro is kept entirely in the 
hands of the landlord. He cannot save money because he 
gets no money to save. He cannot seek a better market 
for his labour because he has no money with which to pay 
his fare, and because he is, by that vicious order system, 
already in debt, and therefore already in bondage. Thus 
he is riveted to one place, and is, in some sense, a slave ; 
for a man to w^hom it can be said, " You shall work for me 
for what I choose to pay you, and how I shall choose to 
pay you," is, in fact, a slave, though he may be called a 
free man. 

We denounce the landlord and tenant system of 
England, but it can be said of England as cannot be said 
of our free country, that by law no labourer can be paid 
for labour in any other than lawful money. England holds 
any other payment to be a penal offence and punishable 
by fine and imprisonment. The same should be the case 
in every State in the American Union. 

Under the mortgage system, no matter how industrious 
or economical the Negro may be, he finds himself at the 
end of the year in debt to the landlord, and from year to 
year he toils on and is tempted to try again and again, but 
seldom with any better result. 

With this power over the Negro, this possession of his 
labour, you may easily see why the South sometimes makes 
a display of its liberality and brags that it does not want 
slavery back. It had the Negro's labour, heretofore for 
nothing, and now it has it for next to nothing and at the same 
time is freed from the obligation to take care of the young 
and the aged, the sick and the decrepit. There is not much 
virtue in all this, yet it is the ground of loud boasting. 


I now come to the so-called, but mis-called " Negro 


Problem," as a characterization of the relations existing in 
the Southern States. 

I say at once, I do not admit the justice or propriety of 
this formula, as applied to the question before us. Words 
are things. They are certainly such in this case, since 
they give us a misnomer that is misleading and hence 
mischievous. It is a formula of Southern origin and has 
a strong bias against the Negro. It handicaps his cause 
with all the prejudice known to exist and anything to 
which he is a party. It has been accepted by the good 
people of the North, as I think, without proper thought 
and investigation. It is a crafty invention and is in every 
way worthy of its inventors. 

It springs out of a desire to throw off just responsibility 
and to evade the performance of disagreeable but manifest 
duty. Its natural effect and purpose is to divert attention 
from the true issue now before the American people. It does 
this by holding up and pre-occupying the public mind with 
an issue entirely different from the real one in question. 
That which is really a great national problem and which 
ought to be so considered by the whole American people, 
dwarfs into a " Negro Problem." The device is not new. 
It is an old trick. It has been oft repeated and with a 
similar purpose and effect. For truth, it gives us falsehood. 
For innocence, it gives us guilt. It removes the burden of 
proof from the old master class and imposes it upon the 
Negro. It puts upon the race a work which belongs to the 
nation. It belongs to that craftiness often displayed by 
disputants who aim to make the worse appear the better 
reason. It gives bad names to good things and good 
names to bad things. 

The Negro has often been the victim to this kind of low 
cunning. You may remember that during the late war, 
when the South fought for the perpetuity of slavery, it 
usually called the slaves " domestic servants," and slavery 
a " domestic institution." Harmless names, indeed, but 
the things they stood for were far from harmless. 

The South has always known how to have a dog hanged 
by giving him a bad name. When it prefixed " Negro " to 
the national problem, it knew that the device would awaken 
and increase a deep-seated prejudice at once and that it 
would repel fair and candid investigation. As it stands, it 
implies that the Negro is the cause of whatever trouble 
there is in the South. In old slave times, when a little 

white child lost his temper, he was given a little whip and 
told to go and whip " Jim " or " Sal," and he thus regained 
his temper. The same is true to day on a large scale. 

I repeat, and my contention is that this Negro problem 
formula lays the fault at the door of the Negro and removes 
it from the door of the white man, shields the guilty and 
blames the innocent, makes the Negro responsible, when 
it should so make the nation. 

Now what the real problem is, we all ought to know. It 
is not a Negro problem, but in every sense a great 
national problem. It involves the question, whether 
after all our boasted civilization, our Declaration of 
Independence, our matchless Constitution, our sublime 
Christianity, our wise statesmanship, we as a people, 
possess virtue enough to solve this problem in accordance 
with wisdom and justice, and to the advantage of both races. 

The marvel is that this old trick of misnaming things, 
so often displayed by Southern politicians, should have 
worked so well for the bad cause in which it is now 
employed ; for the American people have fallen in with the 
bad idea that this is a Negro problem, a question of the 
character of the Negro and not a question of the nation. 
It is still more surprising that the coloured press of the 
country, and some of our coloured orators, have made the 
same mistake, and still insist upon calling it a " Negro 
problem," or a race problem, for by race they mean the 
Negro race. Now, there is nothing" the matter with the 
Negro, whatever; he is all right. I-earned or ignorant, he 
is all right. He is neither a lyncher, a mobocrat or an 
anarchist. He is now what he has ever been, a loyal, law- 
abiding, hard working and peaceable man ; so much so 
that men have thought him cowardly and spiritless. Had 
he been a turbulent anarchist he might indeed have been a 
troublesome problem, but he is not. To his reproach, it is 
sometimes said that any other people in the world would 
have invented some violent way in which to resent their 
wrongs. If this problem depended upon the character 
and conduct of the Negro there would be no problem to 
solve ; there would be no menace to the peace and good 
order of Southern Society. He makes no unlawful light 
between labour and capital. That problem, which often 
makes the American people thoughtful, is not of his bring- 
ing, though he may some day be compelled to talk of this 
tremendous problem in common with other labourers. 


He has as little to do with the cause of the Southern 
trouble as he has with its cure. There is no reason, there- 
fore, in the world, why his name should be given to this 
problem. It is false, misleading and prejudicial, and, like 
all other falsehoods, must eventually come to naught. 

I well remember, as others may remember, that this 
same old falsehood was employed and used against the 
Negro during the late war. He was then charged and 
stigmatized with being the cause of the war, on the 
principle that there would be no highway robbers if there 
were nobody on the road to be robbed. But as absurd as 
this pretence was, the colour prejudice of the country was 
stimulated by it and joined in the accusation, and the 
Negro had to bear the brunt of it. 

Even at the North he was hated and hunted on account 
of it. In the great city of New York his houses were 
burned, his children were hunted down like wild beasts, 
and his people were murdered in the streets, all because 
" they were the cause of the war." Even the good and noble 
Mr. Lincoln, one of the best and most clear-sighted men 
that ever lived, once told a committee of Negroes, who 
waited upon him at Washington, that " they were the cause 
of the war." 

Many were the men who, in their wrath and hate, 
accepted this theory, and wished the Negro in Africa, or 
in a hotter climate, as some do now. 

There is nothing to which prejudice is not equal in the 
way of perverting the truth and inflaming the passions of 

But call this problem what you may or will, the all- 
important question is : How can it be solved ? How can 
the peace and tranquility of the South and of the country 
be secured and established r 

There is nothing occult or mysterious about the answer to 
this question. Some things are to be kept in the mind 
when dealing with this subject and should never be for- 
gotten. It should be remembered that, in the order 
of Divine Providence, the " man, who puts one end 
of a chain around the ankle of his fellow man, 
will find the other end around his own neck." 
And it is the same with a nation. Confirmation of 
this truth is as strong as proofs of holy writ. As we sow 
we shall reap, is a lesson that will be learned here as else- 
where. We tolerated slavery and it has cost us a million 


graves, and it may be that lawless murder now raging, if 
permitted to go on, may yet bring the red hand of 
vengeance, not onlv on the reverend head of age, and upon 
the heads of helpless women, but upon even the innocent 
babes in the cradle. 



But how can this problem be solved ? I will tell you 
how it cannot be solved. It cannot be solved by keeping 
the Negro poor, degraded, ignorant and half-starved, as I 
have shown is now being done in Southern States. 

It cannot be solved by keeping back the wages of the 
labourer by fraud, as is now being done by the landlords 
of the South. It cannot be done by ballot-box stuffing, 
by falsif^ang election returns, or by confusing the Negro 
voter by cunning devices. It cannot be done by repealing 
all federal laws enacted to secure honest elections. It can, 
however, be done, and very easily done, for where there is 
a will there is a way. 

Let the white people of the North and South conquer 
their prejudices. 

Let the Northern press and pulpit proclaim the gospel 
of truth and justice against the war now being made upon 
the Negro. 

Let the American people cultivate kindness and 

Let the South abandon the system of mortgage labour 
and cease to make the Negro a pauper, by paying him 
dishonest scrip for his honest labour. 

Let them give up the idea that they can be free while 
making the Negro a slave. Let them give up the idea 
that to degrade the coloured man is to elevate the white 
man. Let them cease putting new wine into old bottles, 
and mending old garments with new cloth. 

They are not required to do much. They are only 
required to undo the evil they have done, in order to solve 
this problem. 

In old times when it was asked, " How can we abolish 
.slavery ? " the answer was " Quit stealing." 

The same is the solution of the race problem to-dav. 
The whole thing can be done simply by no longer violating 
the amendment of the Constitution of the United States, 
and no longer evading the claims of justice. If this were 

done, there would be no Negro problem or national 
problem to vex the South or to vex the nation. 

Let the organic law of the land be honestly sustained 
and obeyed. Let the political parties cease to palter in a 
double sense, and live up to the noble declarations we find 
in their platforms. Let the statesmen of our country live 
up to their convictions. In the language of ex-Senator 
Ingalls : " Let the nation try justice and the problem will 
be solved." 

Two hundred and twenty years ago the Negro was made 
a religious problem, one which gave our white forefathers 
about as much perplexity and annoyance as we now 
profess. At that time the problem was in respect of what 
relation a Negro sustains to the Christian Church, whether 
he was in fact a fit subject for baptism, and Dr. Godwin, a 
celebrated divine of his time, and one far in advance of his 
brethren, was at the pains of writing a book of two 
hundred pages or more, containing an elaborate argument 
to prove that it was not a sin in the sight of God to 
baptize a Negro. 

His argument was very able, very learned, very long. 
Plain as the truth may seem, there were at that time very 
strong arguments against the position of the learned 

As usual, it was not merely the baptism of the Negro 
that gave trouble, but it was as to what might follow such 
baptism. The sprinkling him with water was a very 
simple thing and easily gotten along with, but the slave- 
holders of that day saw in the innovation something more 
dangerous than cold water. They said that to baptize the 
Negro and make him a member of the Church of Christ 
was to make him an important person — in fact, to make 
him an heir of Jesus Christ. It was to give him a place at 
Lord's supper. It was to take him out of the category of 
heathenism and make it inconsistent to hold him a slave, 
for the Bible made only the heathen a proper subject for 

These were formidable consequences, certainly, and it 
is not strange that the Christian slaveholders of that day 
viewed these consequences with immeasurable horror. It 
was something more terrible and dangerous than the Civil 
Rights Bill and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amend- 
ments to our Constitution. It was a difficult thing, there- 
fore, at that day to get the Negro into water. 


Nevertheless, our learned doctor of divinity, like many 
of the same class in our day, was equal to the emergency. 
He was able to satisfy all important parties to the 
problem, except the Negro, and him it did not seem 
necessary to satisfy. 

The doctor was a skilled dialectician. He could not 
only divide the word with skill, but he could divide the 
Negro into two parts. He argued that the Negro had a 
soul as well as a body, and insisted that while his body 
rightfully belonged to his master on earth, his soul 
belonged to his Master in heaven. By this convenient 
arrangement, somewhat metaphysical, to be sure, but 
entirely evangelical and logical, the problem of Negro 
baptism was solved. 

But with the Negro in the case, as I have said, the 
argument was not entirely satisfactory. The operation 
was much like that by which the white man got the 
turkey and the Indian got the crow. When the Negro 
looked for his body, that belonged to his earthly master ; 
when he looked around for his soul, that had been 
appropriated by his heavenly Master ; and when he 
looked around for something that really belonged to 
himself, he found nothing but his shadow, and that 
vanished into the air, when he might most want it. 

One thing, however, is to be noticed with satisfaction ; 
it is this : something was gained to the cause of righteous- 
ness by this argument. It was a contribution to the cause 
of liberty. It was largely in favour of the Negro. 
It was a plain recognition of his manhood, and was 
calculated to set men to thinking that the Negro might 
have some other important rights, no less than the 
religious right to baptism. 

Thus, with all its faults, we are compelled to give 
the pulpit the credit of furnishing the first important 
argument in favour of the religious character and man- 
hood rights of the Negro. 

Dr. Godwin was undoubtedly a good man. He wrote at 
a time of much moral darkness, and when property in man 
was nearly everywhere recognised as a rightful institution. 
He saw only a part of the truth. He saw that the Negro 
had a right to be baptized, but he could not all at once see 
that he had a primary and paramount right to himself. 

But this was not the only problem slavery had in store 
for the Negro. Time and events brought another and it 


was this very important one : Can the Negro sustain the 
legal relation of a husband to a wifer Can he make a 
valid marriage contract in this Christian country? 

This problem was solved by the same slaveholding 
authority, entirely against the Negro. Such a contract, 
it was argued, could only be binding upon men providenti- 
ally enjoying the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness, and since the Negro is a slave and slavery a 
divine institution, legal marriage was wholly inconsistent 
with the institution of slavery. 

When some of us at the North questioned the ethics of 
this conclusion, we were told to mind our business, and our 
Southern brethren asserted, as they assert now, that they 
alone are competent to manage this and all other questions 
relating to the Negro. In fact, there has been no end to 
the problems of some sort or other, involving the Negro in 

Can the Negro be a citizen? was the question of the 
Dred Scott decision. Can the Negro be educated? Can 
the Negro be induced to work for himself without a 
master? Can the Negro be a soldier? Time and events 
have answered these and all other like questions. We 
have among us Negroes who have taken the first prizes as 
scholars; those who have won distinction for courage and 
skill on the battle field; those who have taken rank as 
lawyers, doctors and ministers of the gospel; those who 
shine among men in every useful calling; and yet we are 
called a problem — a tremendous problem ; a mountain of 
difficulty; a constant source of apprehension; a disturbing 
social force, threatening destruction to the holiest and best 
interests of society. I declare this statement concerning 
the Negro, whether by good Miss Willard, Bishop 
Haygood, Bishop Fitzgerald, ex-Governor Chamberlain, 
or by any and all others, as false and deeply injurious to 
the coloured citizens of the United States. 

But, my friends, I must stop. Time and strength are 
not equal to the task before me. But could I be heard by 
this great nation, I would call to mind the sublime and 
glorious truths with which, at its birth, it saluted and 
startled a listening world. Its voice, then, was as the 
trump of an archangel, summoning hoary forms of oppres- 
sion and time honoured tyranny, to judgment. Crowned 
heads heard it and shrieked. Toiling millions heard it and 


clapped their hands for joy. It announced the advent of a 
nation, based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident 
truths of liberty and equality. Its mission Avas the 
redemption of the world from the bondage of ages. Apply 
these sublime and glorious truths to the situation now 
before you. Put away your race prejudice. Banish the 
idea that one class must rule over another. Recognize the 
fact that the rights of the humblest citizens are as worthy 
of protection as are those of the highest and your problem 
will be solved, and — whatever may be in store for you in the 
future, whether prosperity or adversity, whether you have 
foes without or foes within, whether there shall be peace 
or war — based upon the eternal principles of truth, justice 
and humanity, with no class having cause for complaint or 
grievance, your Republic will stand and flourish for ever. 

Frederick Douglass. 

P D 1 7. 0. 


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